I had a clear picture of a perfect sunset in my mind. Yes, a perfect sunset. A cloudless sky with the sun exactly half visible on the horizon; a tinge of orange fighting the turquoise blue of the sky for dominion, a flock of six birds making a faultless triangle, flying from the left to the right losing height steadily, and yet displaying complete confidence in the sky. I would be sitting on the beach with my darling wife Bharathi, both of us would be holding hands, together and yet, lost in our private admiration of nature’s bounty. There would be a reflection of the sun on the waters. And a lone sailboat close to the horizon would capture my attention. I would muse about being on it. I would then see the sailboat enter the fiery orange ball, which the world knows as the sun and a wave of ecstasy would sweep over me and make me break into the widest smile possible, revealing my happiness to the world.
My perfect sunset!! Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it amazing? I know it is. And it is because I had this idea of a perfect sunset that I haven’t been able to enjoy even a single sunset, yet.
Every time, I happened to chance upon a sunset near the shore, either Bharathi was not there or the sun wasn’t exactly half visible or the orange tinge across the horizon wasn’t the one I had imagined, or in the expanse of the sky, there was a harmless cloud distorting my image of the way the sunset should be, or instead of six there would be ten birds orchestrating the downward dive, or for some reason Bharathi would refuse to hold my hand. Problems, problems, problems.
I have let go so many gorgeous sunsets like an idiot, waiting for the one that was transfixed in my mind. If only I had had the intelligence to understand that there is beauty to be experienced in every sunset, today, I would be richer with the experiences of so many beautiful sunsets.
My foolishness was unfortunately not restricted to sunsets alone. I carried it to my relationships too. I had my own idea of a perfect moment, a perfect experience and a perfect person and hence, I have missed out not only on experiences but also on people.
In many relationships, maybe the loss hasn’t directly affected me, but this perfection that I was searching for, intruded rather deeply in my marriage. It had caused unpardonable harm to this relationship.
100 % is perfect. To me even 99% was not good enough. This attitude of mine has often been the cause for friction. I wanted Bharathi to behave in the way I thought was right and if she failed to do so, I would get extremely irritated, lose my temper and become an intolerable nag.
Till 2002, my son Neeraj used to go to school by the school bus and Bharathi would make him wear his shoes at the last minute. Many a time, the bus would have arrived at the gate, the driver would be honking and Bharathi would be hurriedly forcing the shoes on Neeraj’s feet. I used to find this very embarrassing. I would pounce on Bharathi. Bharathi, absolutely clueless as to why a trivial issue demanded such an outburst, would in turn shout back. In this way, we would provide free entertainment for the neighbours nonetheless! Both Bharathi and I would hold the other responsible for this mess.
In a sensible mood one day, I asked Bharathi the reason for this last minute rush every morning. To my surprise I found she was hardly getting any night sleep because our six-month young daughter Mahek, was having very restless nights. Of course, I was getting more than my quota of undisturbed sleep.
A thought hit me hard at that moment. This woman, who had given birth to a child for whom I was equally responsible, was getting inadequate sleep at night. Instead of doing something as simple as helping my child put on his shoes, I was shouting at my wife. Why?
Because I had an idea of how a perfect wife should be! As a result, instead of appreciating Bharathi for all that she was doing so well and making the relationship stronger, I was behaving like a lunatic and creating tension for the family and myself.
Think about it. If I had not slept in the night for some reason, I would begin the morning by announcing to as many people as possible, how I plan to go to bed early that night. I would spend the rest of the day with eyes glued to the clock, waiting for evening to fall. And Bharathi? She simply dismissed the whole thing, as something that’s part of being a woman and without making a big deal of it, just carried on with her day.
I felt ashamed of my behavior. I told myself that I would never repeat this sort of a mistake again. I realised that I was missing out on the real Bharathi because I was expecting her to behave in certain other ways.
I made a deep resolve to change. I discovered how many potentially wonderful moments were being wasted due to my futile, and foolish, search for perfection.
I had always considered it impolite to let the phone ring for too long, especially when guests were around. Bharathi on the other hand would display more composure, as her contention was that if the call was important, the caller would definitely wait for a few more rings. Invariably, she would be right. I would nevertheless, keep shouting and she would continue doing what she believed was right. Now, either I pick the phone up myself or allow Bharathi to pick it up in her own time.
I always wanted the roti to be placed on the left side of the plate, and Bharathi, for reasons cutely known only to her, would always place it on the right. Earlier we used to fight over this too, but now, I simply turn the plate around.
Bharathi always wanted me to eat on the dining table and I have always preferred to sit cross-legged on the floor and eat. Earlier, a slight deviation from the other’s expectation would result in cold stares being exchanged. Now, I sit cross-legged on the chair, at the dining table itself. Smart, isn’t it?
I realized a simple law of nature. When we are searching for perfection even the slightest of mistakes seem magnified. Even the 1% of what is not okay, effects the entire 99% that is okay. And this dear friends, is insanity.
Understanding this, I started making an effort to look for things for which I should respect Bharathi. Slowly she too began to reciprocate. I not only looked for things, but also made her look at things, for which she deserved respect. She too followed suit. A simple shift, but it made ALL the difference.
Today, at times, we intentionally forget to mention small little things ( 1% ) that we do not consider okay, for we have realized that it is better that way. Yet we make every effort to point out the things that are okay ( 99% ), for we have realized that it should be that way.
Because we have started expressing our respect for each other through words and deeds, we have started valuing this relationship. We are thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. There is now an ease in the relationship that comes from unspoken trust and mutual respect. Today we have proudly made it to the point, where we feel, we are made for each other. We cherish the other person not for what we want them to be, but for what they are. We needed respect. We’ve got it. Now, we want to be more generous in giving that respect.
And yes! I am enjoying the sunset for what it is, and not for how much it matches my expectations. Each sunset is so special and enjoying it this way seems so effortless. Aren’t life and marriage also meant to be beautiful journeys to be enjoyed, and not battles to be fought? Today after witnessing a sunset, I feel that an extra pulse has been added to my body. After all, I know, that every sunset, in it’s own way is perfect.